Happy Birthday Barry Harris

December 15, 1929

A tribute to the veteran bebop pianist

Pianist and educator Barry Harris was born December 15, 1929 in Detroit, Michigan.

Harris, who started on the piano when he was four, was at first inspired by swing pianists before becoming strongly influenced by Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk.

He was part of the fertile Detroit jazz scene in the 1950s, working with such visiting musicians as Miles Davis, Sonny Stitt, Thad Jones, Gene Ammons and Max Roach and making early recordings with Frank Rosolino, Wild Bill Moore, Donald Byrd, Thad Jones, Donald Byrd, Yusef Lateef, Sonny Stitt, Benny Golson, and Billy Mitchell.

Unlike many of his contemporaries in Detroit, Harris did not relocate to New York until 1960 but he quickly caught on, working with Cannonball Adderley Dexter Gordon, Lee Morgan (with whom he recorded “The Sidewinder”), Coleman Hawkins (1965-69), and Charles McPherson (one of his proteges), leading his own record dates for Riverside and Prestige.

No matter the current musical trend, Barry Harris stuck to playing classic bebop and he was heard in top form for his 1970s recordings for the Xanadu label.

In addition to his work with his trio and in all-star groups, Harris developed into an influential educator in the New York area.

Here is Barry Harris playing a solo piano version of “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.”

-Scott Yanow